Upper Left Coast

Thoughts on politics, faith, sports and other random topics from a red state sympathizer in indigo-blue Portland, Oregon.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Isn't it funny...

that the New York Times would print a column, written by a prominent conservative, predicting The End of the Conservative World As We Know It, but if Hugh Hewitt had written a column predicting (for instance) that Democrats will suffer major congressional losses in the 2006 election, it likely wouldn't have seen the Times' light of day?

My thoughts exactly

Jonathan Adler takes on the criticism that conservatives were unfair to Harriet Miers — many made by Hugh Hewitt in this New York Times column — and, in short order, puts those criticisms in the toilet:
First, the tactics employed by most on the Right were not those used by the Left. Miers' record was not falsified or distorted, but it was scrutinized. Most of the critiques, particularly those made her, were substantive. Insofar as there was significant attention to irrelevancies, such attention was invited by the White House. If you claim a nominee is "detail oriented," you should expect people to notice when she fails to record the dates on which she served on a for-profit corporation's Board of Directors. If a nominee's record in the White House is praised, whether those who worked with her shared that impression is worth knowing. I do not believe this compares with the savage and dishonest campaign waged against prior conservative nominees — and that we will likely see again if Bush follows with a solid nomination.

Second, Miers' withdrawal does not contravene the call for giving nominees up-or-down votes. No one was going to deny her a vote. There was never any threat of a filibuster or tying her up in committee. There were not even any delays in the process — other than any that may have resulted from the nominee' own failures to provide complete and accurate information to the Committee. The White House and the nominee eventually realized there was more to lose by continuing ahead than by stopping the process — but this was their decision.

As I told Hugh on his show the other night, almost all of the arguments the White House made in support of Miers' confirmation were either bad arguments or untrue. Many on the Right have long argued that a nominee's demonstrated legal accomplishments are paramount, that religion is irrelevant, that a nominee's political views (on abortion on anything else) do not dictate their legal views, that what matters is the nominee's "head" not his or her "heart," and so on. Yet the White House and its proxies implicitly challenged or rejected each of these arguments in pushing for Miers. Just as bad, many of the claims made about Miers' temperament ("detail oriented") or White House experience (e.g. her work on judges), were quickly contradicted by the available evidence. Worse, the failure to fully vet her nomination meant there was an endless stream of disclosures and revelations for which the White House, and its supporters, were wholly unprepared — disclosures that often undermined the case for Miers the White House sought to make. This is not the fault of conservatives, but of a White House that failed to do its homework before making a choice.

Up until the Miers' nomination, I believe the Bush Administration had an unparalleled record on judicial nominees. Chief Justice Roberts was a fantastic choice, as were the vast majority of Bush's appellate nominees. On this basis, I was ready to give Miers' the benefit of the doubt from day one. For the last several weeks I listened patiently for someone, anyone, to make the case that Miers was a worthy nominee. That case was never made. I have no doubt that she is an accomplished lawyer, and a woman who deserves our admiration and respect for much that she has done over the course of her career. But that doesn't mean she should have been on the Supreme court. If lasting harm was done to conservatives' principled arguments about the judicial nomination process, that harm was done by the White House, not those who called the Administration to account.
I like Hugh Hewitt and respect much of what he writes, but I think on this issue he not only missed the boat, but fell off the dock as well.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Harriet Miers withdraws

And I'm pleased. I hope the President nominates someone worthy of a fight.

In some ways, I wish she would have been given the opportunity for hearings and a vote, because I think that have been the fairest thing to do. But, I also fear that allowing that extra time would only further expose Miers' weaknesseses, which would more greatly damage the president's credibility and opportunity for a solid replacement pick.

I'm not so happy with the accusations, which have been flying for weeks and are intensifying this morning, that this was an insurrection against the administration. That opposition to Miers was sexist. That it was arrogant. That this has set a precedent for paper trail that Democrats will use against any future nominees.

No, no, no and no! There were certainly some on the right (and the left) who lobbed unfair or inaccurate charges against Miers, but those people exist regardless of the nominee. If you're going to accuse loyal Republicans of conducting a smear campaign against Miers and the White House, you need to come up with specific examples. (And Chuck Schumer doesn't qualify as an example.) I have seen no specifics, only generic vitriol.

I see it as conservatives with high hopes for the most important judicial body in the country, people who went from worried about a blank slate to panicked about a woman with historical evidence of her lack of qualifications and quality. As her political views were resurrected, they ranged from conservative to liberal in the span of hours, causing increasingly legitimate questions — President Bush's "Trust me, I know her" notwithstanding — about the potential for another David Souter. That is but one reason why so many people — Hugh Hewitt aside — could not support her.

Let the games begin. Again.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Democrats are Christians, too!

We are we are we are!

That's how it comes across to me — complete with stomping feet — whenever a ranking Democratic leader complains about the relationship between Christians and Republicans.

You're stifling the discussion of faith by Democrat Christians! You fixate too much on abortion and same-sex marriage! You ignore the poor/hungry/disenfranchised! You're trying to impose a theocracy on our country!

So I had to laugh at yesterday's Oregonian story about how "a growing number of Oregon and national Democratic leaders want to haul religion out of the party's backrooms and into the open."

I guess I interpret that this way: they don't want to be closet Christian Democrats. They want to be bold about their faith and how it impacts their politics. And I think that's great. All Christians should be bold about their faith (though none have more difficulty with that concept than this humble blogger), and they shouldn't be shy about letting their faith guide their political beliefs.

It also comes across as an inferiority complex — We are christians! We are we are we are! — but I can't help thinking it's mostly about politics, not about faith.

Of course, this is not a new concept. It's been discussed for years, but even moreso since the day after the 2004 presidential election, when conservative Christians were credited as a key contributor to George W. Bush's re-election. Even before he was elected chairman of the Democratic Party, Howard Dean was quoted in a Christianity Today story as vowing to reach out to evangelicals. For all the efforts of the party, however, the Democrats keep shooting themselves in the foot on this issue, such as Dean's pronouncement in June that Republicans were "a pretty monolithic party. They all behave the same. They all look the same. It's pretty much a white Christian party."

The Oregonian story notes that Republicans have been much more effective in gaining the support of evangelicals, partially because Democrats have "tended to ignore, if not alienate, that sector." However, they believe they can make political gains by appealing to "progressive" voters of faith (not just Christians), just by talking more openly about their religious beliefs and "emphasizing the biblical underpinnings for poverty, anti-war and health programs they support."

That line about alienating people of faith has to be one of the greatest understatements of the story. In recent history, the Democratic Party has been much more interested in helping the American Civil Liberties Union rather than the American Center for Law & Justice, more interested in promoting Planned Parenthood than in promoting planned abstinence.

The problem with this outreach is twofold. First off, Democrats haven't exactly come across as sincere in their efforts to portray their own faith or discuss faith in general. The Christianity Today story noted that when he was the Vermont governor,
Dean promoted homosexual civil unions. His presidential campaign stumbled over clumsy attempts to display biblical literacy and religious values. At one point the governor was quoted as declaring that the Book of Job is his favorite New Testament book.

The eventual Democratic nominee for President, John Kerry, professed himself uneasy about talking of his Catholic faith, and his pro-abortion-rights views generated a lot of criticism from his church leaders.
(Psst . . . Howie . . . Job is in the Old Testament, but it's easy to miss. It's only 42 chapters long, and it's right before the meaty 150 chapters of the Psalms.)

It's that perceived insincerity (note that I didn't say they are insincere, only that they come across that way) that leads to a fair amount of distrust among evangelicals. Even among Democrat Christians, it's hard to put your trust in a party that seems so out of touch with the values inherent in faith.

The Oregonian story quoted Rabbi Daniel Isaak of Portland's Neveh Shalom congregation, and I think Rabbi Isaak inadvertently made this point. He said that the language used to discuss issues of faith is intensely important:
"Liberals are very careful about not mixing church and state," Isaak said. On the other hand, the liberal agenda can be discussed in a clear religious context, whether it's about helping the poor, helping the elderly or affirming that God cares about all, including different faiths and lifestyles.

"The language is important," Isaak said. If Democrats talk about religion comfortably and honestly, they can appeal to religious voters, but "if they use language that is not sincere, they'll fall on their faces."
The problem lies in that phrase "different faiths and lifestyles." Does God love everyone? Yes. Without question. "For God so loved the world..." Not part of the world. The world.

However, does God say that all faiths and lifestyles are acceptable from an eternal perspective? Not according to the Christian faith (John 14:6, Hebrews 5:9).

Second, in any discussion of the poor, hungry or war-ravaged, Democrats automatically accuse Republicans of ignoring those needs. However, while it's sometimes true, it's usually not that simple. It's not so much a willingness to ignore the needy as much as it is a disagreement about the necessary paths we should take to meet those needs. Pastor and blogger extraordinaire Mark D. Roberts put it nicely in Part IV of a series he wrote last year:
I believe the Bible calls all Christians to care for the poor. The pages of Scripture are filled with God’s concern for the poor and with many exhortations to reach out to those in material need (for example, Deuteronomy 15:10-11; Isaiah 58:6-9; 1 John 3:17). So, when I preach from such passages, I call my congregation to care for the poor, not only through individual acts of charity, but also by working in society to eliminate the causes of poverty.

Now I know Christians who believe, on the basis of what I’ve just said about poverty, that my preaching at this point should take a sharp turn in the Democratic direction. After all, this is the party that tends to talk a lot about caring for the poor and ending poverty. Democrats generally believe that the government should lead the effort to alleviate poverty through a wide variety of federal, state, and local programs. Since these programs cost money, Democrats argue that it’s necessary to raise taxes on the wealthy to cover the costs, and that this will ultimately lead to a more just society. All of this sounds consistent with biblical teaching. So does the Bible support the Democratic agenda, at least when it comes to the problem of poverty?

Not necessarily. I also know Christians who are deeply concerned about the problem of poverty and do much in their own lives both to care for the poor and to bring about social change that will eliminate poverty. But these Christians do not believe that the government should take the lead in this effort. Rather, they see the ultimate solution to poverty coming from the jobs that will be created by a strong economy and a thriving business community. They believe, not only that government efforts to alleviate poverty are ineffective, but also that government involvement often makes matters worse. They believe that the most successful care for the poor comes, not from government, but from faith-based ministries, such as the Salvation Army or World Vision. So these faithful Christians who care profoundly for the poor find the Republican party to be the one that generally shares their perspectives on how best to eliminate poverty.
One of the reasons the evangelical movement has aligned itself so strongly with the GOP is the Democrats' inflexibility in discussing faith-based issues. When discussing issues such as helping the poor, the argument is one of method, and there are ways to achieve compromise if both sides are willing. When discussing issues such as abortion, the argument is more black and white: yes, the unborn are worthy or protection, or, No, the unborn have no rights. Despite polls showing support for measures such as a partial-birth abortion ban, parental consent or informed consent, the Democratic Party has no interest in broadening that part of its tent.

Those Democrats who believe the unborn deserve the protection promised in our country's founding documents find themselves dealing with a Democratic party beholden to the most extreme factions of the pro-abortion movement, so that no discussion, no compromise, no protection is achieveable. Perceiving no willingness to bend, Democrats of faith have no choice but to turn to a Republican party not only willing to listen to their concerns, but have a broad enough coalition that people of different beliefs (e.g. Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Dobson) can be part of the same party.

The biggest downfall among Republican Christians (myself included) is a willingness to listen only to those who share the same beliefs. It is this closeting that has sometimes led to the GOP's inability (or unwillingness) to give the disenfranchised the same priority as the unborn. As Mark D. Roberts said in Part III of his series:
There’s no escaping the fact that good Christians often differ considerably in their political views. Perhaps the main reason this seems wrong to many “good Christians” on both right and left is that they rarely talk to anyone outside of their own little circle of agreement. If I talk politics only with those who agree with me about politics and faith, then I naturally come to assume that all who share my faith also share my politics. Not only do I end up with a skewed perspective on reality, but also I miss the chance to clarify and correct my political viewpoints through thoughtful discourse with people who disagree with me. Wouldn’t it be something if the church could become a place for this kind of political conversation?
I think it would be valuable. It would contribute to the de-polarization of the electorate, and it would go a long way toward conveying the church's love for all people. The cynic in me also says it's not gonna happen.

Nonetheless, I welcome the chance to discuss issues of faith with both parties. I only have one question: does this mean that Democrats are going to abandon their constitutionally-challenged perspective on the separation of church and state?

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

What's best for the kids? A strike!

Gullyborg on the teacher's strike in the Oregon Trail School District (boldface in original, ellipses are mine):
When a non-public union strikes, the people who need what that union supplies can go elsewhere . . . But when a public union strikes, there is often no alternative for the people. This amounts to sheer blackmail, especially when the service withheld is essential to the public as a whole. It was because of this that Congress made it illegal for certain unions, such as the air traffic controllers, to strike. But Congress didn't take it far enough. As long as there is no viable alternative to government, it should be illegal for ANY government employee to strike.
But that's not why I'm writing. I'm writing because of this:
Other parents say that option would produce animosity between the teachers and substitute teachers, and they do not want their children taught in a hostile environment.

A 1999 strike by Fern Ridge area teachers near Eugene involved substitute teachers who were jeered and threatened when they crossed picket lines.

Police officers had to escort the subs onto school grounds in some cases.
Our children should be safe. They shouldn't be placed under the care and supervision of violent criminals. Aren't all prospective teachers required to pass some sort of criminal background check? If not, they should be. And if teachers are found guilty of a violent crime, aren't they supposed to be removed from the schools? If not, they should be.

So I say go ahead and replace the striking teachers with substitutes. If the strikers threaten violence, arrest them. Making threats of violence is a crime. Prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law. Then, once they are found guilty, ensure that they can never teach in another school.

Any striking teacher who harms, or threatens to harm, a substitute teacher should never be allowed near our children again.
Amen. Of course, it's that very culture of violence, not to mention the fact (at least from what I understand) that most substitutes are union members as well, that will make it highly unlikely that a substitute would cross picket lines.

Quote of the Day

Tim Graham, who focuses on liberal media bias for the Media Research Center, noted on NRO's The Corner that two recent books about Hillary Clinton are in very different places on the Amazon best-seller list: "Condi vs. Hillary" by Dick Morris (aimed at a fairly conservative — or at least moderate — audience) was ranked 359th, and "The Case for Hillary" by Susan Estrich (is there anyone more liberal?) was ranked at 7,582.

That prompted this from Stanley Kurtz on The Corner:
Tim, I suppose it's good news that Susan Estrich's Hillary book isn't doing very well. Still, I think it's important that the entire country know that Susan Estrich has written a book called, "The Case For Hillary." Shout it to the rafters, Tim. Susan Estrich is making the case for Hillary Clinton! Did you get that people? If not, let me clarify. Susan Estrich is making the case for Hillary Clinton! Excellent.

Let me ask you a question, Tim. Which book will do more to convince the American people that Hillary is the good-old lefty folks like us have always known her to be? Morris may be selling well, but he's preaching to the choir. Estrich, on the other hand, is giving the lie to Hillary's "moderate" make-over. Have I mentioned that Susan Estrich has written a book called "The Case For Hillary?" We certainly know that Estrich is far to the left of moderate Democratic ex-cabinet secretaries like Lawrence Summers. Heck, Estrich is even to the left of Michael Kinsley! Remember? By the way, have I mentioned that Susan Estrich has just written a book called, "The Case For Hillary?" Absolutely excellent.
I'm hopeful that the release of independent counsel David Barrett's report into alleged Clinton-era vendettas against political enemies — supposedly to happen in the next couple of weeks — will do more to trash HRC's electability, but I'll take Estrich's contribution as well.

Joke of the Day

John Smith was the only Protestant to move into a large Catholic neighborhood. On the first Friday of Lent, John was outside grilling a big juicy steak on his grill. Meanwhile, all of his neighbors were eating cold tuna fish for supper.

This went on each Friday of Lent. On the last Friday of Lent, the neighborhood men got together and decided that something had to be done about John. He was tempting them to eat meat each Friday of Lent and they couldn't take it anymore.

They decided to try and convert John to be a Catholic. They went over and talked to him, and were so happy that he decided to join all of his neighbors and become a Catholic. They took him to church, and the Priest sprinkled some water over him and said, "You were born a Baptist, you were raised a Baptist, and now you are a Catholic."

The men were so relieved; now their biggest Lenten temptation was resolved.

The next year's Lenten season rolled around. The first Friday of Lent arrived. Just at supper time, when the neighborhood families were sitting down to their tuna fish dinner, came the wafting smell of steak cooking on a grill.

The neighborhood men could not believe their noses! WHAT WAS GOING ON? They called each other up and decided to meet over in John's yard to see if he had forgotten it was the first Friday of Lent.

The group arrived just in time to see John standing over his grill with a small pitcher of water. He was sprinkling some water over his steak on the grill, saying, "You were born a cow, you were raised a cow, and now you are a fish."

Monday, October 24, 2005

A gun ban goes down hard

I'm not a big Second Amendment guy, but I'm more sympathetic to the cause than most of the gun control drivel I hear. So I was interested in the story I read yesterday about Brazil's referendum on a proposed gun ban.

Brazil, with 100 million fewer residents than the United States, suffered almost 40,000 gun deaths last year compared to 30,000 in the US. A gun buy-back plan brought in more than 400,000 weapons last year, which was followed by an 8 percent drop in gun-related homicides. Brazilian gun-control groups were so encouraged by this that they worked with the legislature to go whole-hog for a total ban.

The ban would have outlawed the sale of any guns or ammunition to anyone who wasn't a police officer or military member. Early polls showed it passing by large margins (like 70-30). However, it failed by 65-35, and the most interesting thing to me was this line in Friday's story by the Christian Science Monitor:
More than 70 percent of those polled in August said they would vote for the ban, but results released last week showed that those planning to vote no . . . had shot up — especially among the well-off and best educated.
If it was the reverse — that the poor and uneducated were supporting the ban in large numbers — I suspect the anti-gun elites would be proclaiming the stupidity of the Brazilian populace. Too bad for them that it didn't work that way.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Oregon's next Supreme Court justice?

Gullyborg has a great interview he scored with Jack Roberts (former Oregon Republican gubernatorial candidate, former state labor commissioner, former county commissioner, etc.), who is considering a run at the state supreme court to replace the retiring Chief Justice Wallace Carson.

Even though Roberts is pro-choice, I've always admired him, starting when I was a student at Oregon and he was a Lane County Commissioner. Read the whole thing, long though it is, but here are a few snippits.

On why he's considering a run:
The main reason I’m interested in running is that there is a real disconnect between the Supreme Court and the people of Oregon. We elect our judges for a reason: we don’t expect them to be political in their decisions, but we expect them to know who they work for, and to be able to communicate what they do to the people, and to connect to the people. It helps to have on the bench a diversity of people from different backgrounds and experience. Right now, we don’t really have that.
the recent case on live sex acts reminds us that there is a whole line of cases...that I think have room for a lot of debate and discussion, and I’d like to be a part of that. I think that we have to be able to formulate a rule of law that most people in this state can understand and accept, and I don’t think we’re there as it relates to free speech… even though I think Oregonians broadly support free speech; in fact, in 1996, there was a ballot measure that would have said “do you want the Oregon free speech provision to be interpreted the same way as the federal free speech provision,” and it lost. People understand that we have broader protection here and they wanted that. But I still think you ought to have a rule that is understandable and can be communicated to people, and I don’t think the current rule that we have makes sense. We need to have that discussion.

So there are plenty of issues where we need to take a fresh look, and not just say we are going to come up through the system and accept all the precedents and past history as a given, without asking the question “is this really doing the job that the people of Oregon want and expect as required by our Constitution?”
On ruling with the law vs. providing justice:
Well, the job really is to enforce and interpret the law. However tempted you might be to bend the law to do justice in a particular case, the precedent you will set by doing that can result in real injustice in a lot of other cases. Now, by the same token, there is often a lot of discretion in the law, judgment in the law, and I’ve never believed that you decide cases based on ironclad formulas. The good justices over the years, people like Justice Holmes, Justice Cardozo, Judge Learned Hand, these are people who, I think, had a realistic view of how to take the law, and apply it in a way that makes sense.

I think that if you’re a judge, and you’re not prepared to make a decision that you don’t agree with from a policy standpoint but you know is right in a legal sense, you shouldn’t be a judge. But by the same token, if your judicial philosophy results in a crazy decision, one that doesn’t make any sense to any parties, but you say “this is how my judicial formula applies,” which is what I think sometimes with [Richard] Posner, then you have to step back and re-evaluate, and say “how can I say this is right if the outcome is so crazy?” I’m going to resist the temptation to name some recent cases where I think this has happened…

I think you need some grounding in good common sense, in real life, in the real world. But you can’t be twisting the law in every case to do what you want it to do and call that being a judge. That’s not the job of a judge.
On why the Supreme Court of Oregon needs Jack Roberts:
A: To bring common sense back to the court.
Q: Are you saying there isn't any common sense on the court?
A: Let’s just say they can always use more.

Who has to save whom?

Robert Novak writes:
George W. Bush's agents have convinced conservative Republican senators who were heartsick over his nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court that they must support her to save his presidency.
Excuse me? Let me see if I have this straight:
  • Many conservatives don't like the president's pick.
  • It becomes obvious that it's a political problem for the president, because conservatives expected a quality nominee for the nation's highest court and instead got a plethora of questions and unknowns about Ms. Miers.
  • Instead of realizing he's got a problem and correcting the problem, the president's "agents" strong-arm the members of his own party to cover over the problem and support his questioned judgment.
At what point does the president realize that the way to "save" his presidency might be to take a bold step: nominate a quality candidate who will have none of the question marks so obvious in Miers, instead of "asking" conservatives to ratify a big question mark against their better judgment?

A moment of clarity on Roe

It's pretty infrequent that a paper with the politics and stature of the Washington Post features writing that challenges the liberal status quo when it comes to Roe v. Wade, but columnist Richard Cohen achieves that nicely in today's edition.

Cohen, self-identified as pro-choice, explains that his thought process has evolved over the last 30 years, to this point: "I no longer see abortion as directly related to sexual freedom or feminism, and I no longer see it strictly as a matter of personal privacy, either. It entails questions about life -- maybe more so at the end of the process than at the beginning, but life nonetheless."

That should send shudders through Kate Michelman, Nancy Keenan and their pro-abortion friends at NARAL Pro-Choice America. (No, they're not pro-choice — if they were, they wouldn't be so blindly and viciously opposed to ideas like informed consent.) Cohen is essentially poking big, gaping holes in their theory that "an aggressive anti-choice movement [is] intent on taking away our rights and freedoms." Instead, it's a friend of the movement who is pointing out that their intense focus on rights leaves out an inconvenient fact: when they talk about the "Right to Choose," they don't mention that they want the right to choose to end a human life.

Cohen points out that the genesis of Roe v. Wade was the 1965 privacy decision Griswold v. Connecticut. Ironically, this decision was based on a concept currently under attack by the same-sex marriage crowd: "the notion that marriage was a privileged institution into which law should not interfere," as Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum wrote in his recent book, It Takes a Family. Griswold overturned a state law forbidding the use of contraceptives by married couples, which was easy for America to understand as a privacy issue. After all, where does the government get the right to tell a married couple what it can or cannot do behind its bedroom door?

Roe as a privacy case is not so clearcut ("...it is not hard to say it confounds our common-sense understanding of what privacy is," Cohen said). It is also based on 1973 science, which was unaware of facts such as the existence of a fetal heartbeat within three weeks of conception.
As Cohen said:
If a Supreme Court ruling is going to affect so many people then it ought to rest on perfectly clear logic and up-to-date science. Roe, with its reliance on trimesters and viability, has a musty feel to it, and its argument about privacy raises more questions than it answers.
And finally, the most important observation in Cohen's essay: after 30 years of thinking about Roe, it's obvious (to Cohen, at least) that Roe was exactly the kind of judicial activism that has coservative court watchers so up in arms, yet its reversal would not have the kind of sky-is-falling result that pro-abortion sorts are foreseeing:
Conservatives -- and some liberals -- have long argued that the right to an abortion ought to be regulated by states. They have a point. My guess is that the more populous states would legalize it, the smaller ones would not, and most women would be protected. The prospect of some women traveling long distances to secure an abortion does not cheer me -- I'm pro-choice, I repeat -- but it would relieve us all from having to defend a Supreme Court decision whose reasoning has not held up. It seems more fiat than argument.

For liberals, the trick is to untether abortion rights from Roe. The former can stand even if the latter falls. The difficulty of doing this is obvious. Roe has become so encrusted with precedent that not even the White House will say how Harriet Miers would vote on it, even though she is rigorously antiabortion and politically conservative. Still, a bad decision is a bad decision. If the best we can say for it is that the end justifies the means, then we have not only lost the argument -- but a bit of our soul as well.
The reversal of Roe v. Wade is such a touchy subject among the far-left that no one in congress is willing to challenge the standard orthodoxy that such a reversal would mean The End of the World As We Know it. But the fact that the pro-abortion movement has such a hold on the far-left, a grip that refuses to allow the type of dissent that Cohen writes about, is yet another example that makes Cohen's point: We've lost a bit of our soul as well.

Oh Happy Day!

Usually I have to suffer through creamy, boring, nut-free peanut butter, but today, I discovered that my wife bought extra-crunchy!


Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Unnecessary distractions

So the Ducks, my alma mater, are 6-1 in football, and ranked 13th in the BCS standings. They're finding ways to win. The offense is clicking (36 points per game). The defense is coming around (19 points per game since slipping by Fresno State and getting creamed by USC).

Great! I'm excited. Go Ducks!

So I was waiting to see if Heisman Fever would strike the athletic department's public relations department because, you know, they don't have near enough to do in a season when they could finish 10-1 and go to a big bowl.

Sure enough, word comes today that the success of the program has prompted the athletic department to ramp up its publicity campaign for the rancher kid from Burns, Oregon (population 2,854), quarterback Kellen Clemens.

It's not that Clemens isn't having a good year. In fact, he's having a great year. Through seven games, he's completed almost 65 percent of his passes for 2,219 yards, and thrown for 18 touchdowns vs. just three interceptions. He ranks among the top three Oregon quarterback in history — which includes names like Danny O'Neill, Bill Musgrave, Joey Harrington, Chris Miller and Dan Fouts — and will likely be the school's top QB by the end of the year.

Clemens is also, from everything I hear, a nice kid. Humble. A hard worker and a decent leader, but not one to toot his own horn. As he said to the Oregonian: "We just want to win games. The rest of it, you get caught up in it and you get off track."

Exactly. How come a 22-year-old kid gets it, and an athletic department full of adults doesn't?

Maybe they think that by promoting Kellen Clemens for the Heisman, it will bring additional attention to the team, and that's probably true. But couldn't the PR department find a way to promote the team without the ego distractions inherent in a Heisman campaign?

After all, if the Ducks finish 10-1, they should have a legitimate shot at one of the BCS games. The Rose Bowl is out, because it's hosting the national championship game, but they could go to the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 2 or maybe even one of the other BCS games (Sugar or Orange). Obviously, a lot of football remains to be played, including home dates with very good teams in Cal and Oregon State and a roadtrip to the Palouse to play WSU. Also, the Ducks don't meet UCLA (currently 6-0) this year. Heck, the Ducks could finish 7-4 (sorry, I can't quite bring myself to imagine a loss to Arizona) and end up in El Paso for the holidays. Yuck.

Still, this Heisman thing has got to be the stupidest idea I've heard in a long time. We all know how well the last one worked out...

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Honoring a soldier

Today in church, the pastor was wrapping up his comments before dismissing the congregation, but he had one last thing to say: with his "x-ray vision," he noticed a young man near the back of the auditorium, and said "Welcome home" to the Marine in civilian clothes.

I did not know the man, who (along with his young wife) looked to be well short of 30, but he stood to acknowledge the pastor's greeting, and the church broke into polite applause. However, it lingered, as if the audience were trying to decide how best to acknowledge this soldier, this young man, part of a family, part of the congregation. It slowly picked up steam, growing louder and more intentional, until people began standing to offer the only honor they had at their disposal.

My first thought after the pastor's introduction was the desire to express my appreciation for this soldier's service, but being the cynic I am, that thought was followed shortly thereafter by curiousity: how many people in the audience were genuinely wanting to honor this Marine, and how many were just clapping to go with the flow.

No matter, I thought, it's nice that a church family can offer such thanks, because I suspect there are few places outside those doors where any soldier would get such validation of his service to his country, regardless of his country's attitude toward him.

Friday, October 14, 2005

My mindmeld with Jonah Goldberg

Over at NRO, Jonah sums up my feelings exactly on the Harriet Miers kerfuffle:
This is my last column on Harriet Miers until her confirmation hearings begin — or until her press conference announcing that for the good of her (insert "country," "president," "family," "party," "faith" or "sanity") she's withdrawing from consideration for the Supreme Court.

Such resolutions are necessary because Miers Mental Dementia Obsessive Hysteria (Mm'Doh!) is becoming a huge problem in conservative circles. Ground zero of the outbreak is the White House. The syndrome seems to cause disorientation, sudden irrelevant or counter-productive outbursts — about religion or loyalty, for example — and even strange paranoid delusions in which a perfidious cabal of right-wing "elitists" at the Federalist Society — as opposed to the Cheez Wiz-sucking Joe Six-Packs who really make up its rank and file — are secretly trying to prevent female corporate lawyers of the evangelical faith from being anything but moms, schoolmarms or, uh, White House counsels. "This far and no farther!" declare the Federalist phantasms, "keep 'em barefoot and in the West Wing."

Word is that former RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie made a brief visit to the Oval Office and accidentally drank some of the tap water. Shortly thereafter, he showed up at National Review in a tie-dyed muumuu, set fire to a very sensible bra, and chided editors for opposing such an admirable American womyn. Fortunately, I wasn't there, but I'm told he then pointed to the Xerox machine and shouted, "Look! Cows!" and collapsed to the floor. Like I said, the dementia is getting out of hand. (In other news, the Secret Service stopped George Will as he tried to barge into the White House, reportedly to explain the Constitutional Convention to the president with hand puppets.)
OK, I included all that because it made me laugh. Maybe Jonah doesn't share my feelings exactly, because my feelings aren't that funny. Jonah's point is summed up in the final paragraphs.
Now that my fever's subsiding, I don't care so much. No criticism remains unspoken, no gripe unexpressed. The hearings will reveal what they'll reveal.
Take plenty of fluids, wait for the hearings, this fever will pass.
In essence, chill out and let the woman speak. Unwritten but inherent in this piece is this: George Bush is not going to withdraw his nomination. He has a track record of stubbornness, and it's not going to end now. Miers might pull herself out, but everything I've read tells me that's highly unlikely at best.

By the way, for the record, I'm not chilling because I'm growing accustomed to the nomination. As Jonah said, "Even now, ice pack on my brow, I remain convinced Miers was a very, very bad pick." I just see no point in continued hand-wringing in the face of a president who remains loyal to "his people," sometimes (it could be argued) to a fault.

Hope that mindmeld didn't hurt Jonah; I'd hate to be responsible for cutting short a brilliant career.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Jason Atkinson: Taxes & Spending

Before I tackle Jason Atkinson's opinions about Taxes & Spending (according to the 2000 NPAT), a note on interest group ratings. Project Vote Smart (PVS) lists several areas of interest, and compiles the candidate's voting record as compared to the preferred positions of various interest groups.

I tried to look into those areas by going to each interest group's website and reading their Legislative Scorecard (where available). I quickly found it a waste of time, because those groups are going to warp the issue to fit their narrow focus. That's not necessarily wrong, but it's near impossible to get perspective without reading each bill in its entirety (not gonna happen) and understanding what the bill does (sometimes difficult). For the record, Atkinson voted in line with the Taxpayer Association of Oregon 100 percent of the time in2002 & 2003.

Also, a note of admission: Taxes and spending are not my forte. I'm learning, but there's a reason I got a Bachelor of Arts degree instead of a BS — no math, and almost no economics. There are plenty of people out there who hold more knowledge about these issues in their little finger than I have in my whole body.

First, PVS asks about 10 different taxing areas and whether Atkinson would increase, decrease or maintain the current levels. (Obviously, some of the current levels are different than they were five years ago.) Atkinson would maintain the current levels of taxation on:
  • Alcohol taxes
  • Cigarette taxes
  • Corporate taxes
  • Gasoline taxes
  • Property taxes
  • Vehicle taxes
He would "Greatly Decrease" the taxation levels on income taxes; he's given the opportunity to differentiate between incomes below $75,000 and above $75,000, but calls for lower income taxes regardless of income level.

He would eliminate capital gains taxes and inheritance taxes.

These priorities make sense to me, both because some taxes are basically non-negotiable (property) and some of his perspectives come down to fairness. Inheritance taxes are killers to small businesses, which provide the bulk of the country's jobs. Also, I've long been bugged by the liberal war against the wealthy, as if they don't pay their "fair share." If I earn $100,000, I pay nine thousand dollars to the state of Oregon in income taxes; if I earn $10,000, I still pay the same percentage, but that's just nine hundred dollars. Talk all you want about the amount of income that's left, or about how the wealthy can afford to pay more, but the fact still remains that the wealthy pay plenty in taxes.

In light of recent revelations about Portland General Electric's miniscule state income tax payment, I'd like to ask him again about the corporate tax; as a small business owner, however, I approach that issue with a huge amount of caution.

The survey also asks a series of questions. In them, Atkinson opposes:
  • Internet taxes
  • Creating a health care trust fund with the tobacco settlement
  • Funding schools with a portion of that settlement
  • Increasing gas taxes to pay for road repairs
He supports:
  • A flat tax for state income taxes
  • Returning any operating surplus to taxpayers (AKA the Kicker)
  • Allowing a state tax deduction for federal income taxes over $3,000 per couple
He is undecided on two issues:
  • Placing any operating surplus into a "rainy day" fund
  • Replacing the weight-mile truck tax with a diesel gas tax
With the recent push for the rainy day fund, that would be a good question to ask again, particularly how it ties in with the Kicker law. The question about a flat tax is kind of a joke, because the only people who pay less than 9 percent on their state incomes are those who earn less than $6,500. The last time I earned less than $6,500, I was a poor college student working part-time in a minimum wage job.

This is the only area that concerns me a bit, but it's sufficiently vague that it's tough to gauge. Atkinson is given the opportunity to increase, decrease, or maintain funding in seven different areas.

He calls for "Greatly" increased funding for higher education, and favors "Slightly" increased funding for K-12 education and law enforcement. He wants to "Maintain" funding levels in the areas of Environment, Health care, Transportation and Highway infrastructure, and Welfare.

None of those are necessarily bad on their face, but with no tax increases and no spending decreases, I'd be interested to hear a) if he still holds these persectives; and b) how that translates to a budget.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

A late observation about the O

I know this is two days late, but just a quick observation about Sunday's Oregonian Opinion section:

Page 1 Stories:
  • A story about how Republican presidents are too stupid (or too bad a judge of character) to pick a Supreme Court justice who will overturn Roe v. Wade.
  • The effort by the paper's former state budget reporter to explain how 1) government is inefficient, but so are businesses; 2) Corporations are stealing the state blind because they don't contribute enough taxes; 3) taxes are low but spending is high, thanks to "user fees and federal grants" (no guesses on how much of the budget comes from either source); 4) the kicker is "insane," but Oregonians aren't willing to change it; 5) "Groups that complain the most about paying taxes — seniors, farmers, big business — enjoy some of the most generous tax benefits."
  • The public editor's column about how swell newspapers are, specifically the New Orleans paper.
Page 2 Stories:
  • Two short slams at Harriet Miers
  • A glowing — if understated — column supporting her candidacy by the head of the Reagan and Bush 41 Legal Counsel's office
Page 3 Stories:
  • Letters
Page 4 Stories:
  • An editorial about energy conservation that includes a line about the "clueless Bush administration"
  • An editorial that says Bush is too focused on Iraq, to the detriment of the Department of Homeland Security
  • An "editorial sketchbook" about a man who feels sorry for a homeless man and gives the man his empty cans and bottles
  • A David Sarasohn column about Fort Clatsop, which is surprisingly lacking any slam on Republicans
Page 5 Stories:
  • The Washington Post's Marie Cocco on the Republican scumbags in the House, starting with Tom DeLay
  • The new "Media Watch" column by Normon Solomon, which is one long rail against the Bush Administration's "spinning"
  • The Miami Herald's Leonard Pitts Jr. on the realities of race and crime as it impacted his family, complete with a slam at William Bennett's recent comments about race, African-Americans and abortion
  • The O's token conservative, David Reinhard writes about the recent state supreme court decisions claiming live sex acts are constitutionally-protected free speech.
Page 6 Stories:
  • The Washington Post's E.J. Dionne Jr., writing about the Bush administration's use of Miers' religion as a positive, after saying that John Roberts' religion was off limits.
For the record, I agree with Dionne; I think Bennett was not very smart in his comments and I found Pitts' column impactful; I'd like to see more of an effort by the feds to pursue cleaner and more efficient energy; and I'm still not wild about Harriet Miers.

Still, is it just me or is there a huge disparity between liberal and conservative viewpoints? But there's no bias in media. Really.

A peek into the mind of Jason Atkinson

Jason Atkinson, state senator from southern Oregon, wants to be our state's next governor. He's garnered the support of several conservative bloggers in the state, but I've delayed taking a stand because I don't know the guy and want to learn more about him.

In my quest to better understand who Jason Atkinson is, I stumbled upon an interesting collection of information at Project Vote Smart — the National Political Awareness Test. Take this for what it's worth, and remember that this was filled out five years ago, but I think it sheds some interesting light into the mind of Atkinson.

First, the disclaimer from PVS:
The National Political Awareness Test (NPAT) asks candidates which items they will support if elected. It does not ask them to indicate which items they will oppose. Through extensive research of public polling data, we discovered that voters are more concerned with what candidates would support when elected to office, not what they oppose. If a candidate does not select a response to any part or all of any question, it does not necessarily indicate that the candidate is opposed to that particular item.
Keep that last sentence in mind as you read this.

First topic: ABORTION
Jason supported the following statements:
  • Abortions should be legal when pregnancy results from incest, rape or the life of the woman is endangered.
  • Abortions should be limited by waiting periods and notification requirements as decided by each state government.
  • Support prohibition of the dilation and extraction procedure, also known as "partial-birth" abortion (PBA).
  • Support "buffer zones" at abortion clinics by requiring demonstrators to remain a certain distance from doorways and driveways.
He chose not to express support for these statements:
  • Abortions should always be illegal.
  • Abortions should always be legally available.
  • Abortions should be legal only within the first trimester of pregnancy.
  • Prohibit Oregon Health Plan from funding abortions and organizations that advocate or perform abortions.
He takes a conservative, but realistic, perspective: Rape, incest and the mother's life (not health). Waiting Periods. Opposition to PBA. He doesn't call for an outright ban, which will never happen in Oregon. He understands that protesters can express their views without getting in the face of women.

Some of my pro-life friends may not agree with positions like rape/incest/mother's life, or the lack of an outright ban, but my pro-life beliefs are somewhat tempered by the reality of Oregon politics. I like Jason's perspective (though I'm not wild about the Oregon Health Plan answer); I think he knows that issues like waiting periods and PBA are ones that cross over from conservative circles, appealing to the independents and pro-life Democrats whose votes he will need.

Next post: Budget & Taxes

Friday, October 07, 2005

Foolishly misunderestimating the Angry Right?

James Taranto of OpinionJournal.com saw first-hand Thursday night the anger against President Bush regarding the nomination of Harriet Miers. Here are Taranto's comments in today's Best of the Web:
When President Bush nominated Harriet Miers on Monday, we saw it as a missed opportunity. It left us underwhelmed, not appalled. But having spent last evening communing here with some 1,000 conservatives at National Review's 50th anniversary dinner, we see a political disaster in the making.

We talked to quite a few people, and we heard not a single kind word about the nomination from anyone who wasn't on the White House staff. A couple of our soundings led us to think that such support as it has received has been more sycophantic than sincere. One putative proponent privately distanced himself from his public praise of Miers. Another person, whose employer has strongly backed the Miers nomination, told us, "Of course, I disagree wholeheartedly."

The White House seems genuinely befuddled by the intensity of conservative opposition, and especially stung by the harsh words of George Will and Trent Lott. The White House position seems to be that Bush gave the Supreme Court an excellent leader in Chief Justice John Roberts (on this point, of course, we agree wholeheartedly), and that what the president was seeking in his second pick was not someone with "sharp elbows" but a reliable "conservative" vote.

This is similar to the left's description of Clarence Thomas as a mere follower of Antonin Scalia. If the White House adopting this invidious caricature as its ideal, conservatives have every reason to be angry.

Conventional wisdom still has it that Miers is a shoo-in for confirmation. We're not so sure. From what we saw last night, the right is furious at President Bush for appointing someone they see as manifestly underqualified and for ducking a fight with the Democratic left--a fight that, in their view (and ours), would be good for the country, the conservative cause and the Republican Party.

Bush may be getting a fight anyway. And while he can laugh off the Angry Left, which would never support him no matter what he did, the Angry Right is a force he'd be a fool to misunderestimate.
Bush is certain not to withdraw the nomination, but how the anger from the right will play out in the nomination process remains to be seen.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

A quick thought on Miers

There seems to be this growing inference by some conservatives that anyone who expresses doubts about Harriet Miers is being unfair, elitist, petty or ignorant. This name-calling against people who have some legitimate concerns strikes me as unfair, elitist and petty, if not ignorant.

That said, I've reached the conclusion that my call for her defeat by the Senate is premature. I'm still not happy about the choice; as I wrote at Gully's site:
Her connection to the president is not a negative in and of itself, but what causes concern is the potential inability to gauge her judicial abilities and philosophies separate from Bush's word.
It may turn out that the hearings reveal Miers to be a superbly qualified jurist, but I doubt it. As we saw from Roberts, the hearings are not that valuable because of the Ginsburg Principle, and whatever writings the White House might release to show her philosophies can be dismissed as "doing her job for the administration" when the conclusions are attacked by Democrats.

The president's job is to nominate someone he believes is qualified for the job, but he needs at least 50 Senators to agree, and there's the rub. Senators should not simply vote Yes because the president said so; that kind of mindless zombie-ism is exactly what we accuse Democrats of doing in response to MoveOn, PFAW, etc.

The Senate has every reason to expect it can verify the president's judgment through the nominations process. (Otherwise, there's no point in having the Advise-and-Consent clause at all.) Conservatives (at least this one) who express concern about this nomination are simply asking for the same verification.
But I agree with Gully and a few other bloggers about one thing: Bush has done well with his previous nominations, and that deserves to be taken into account with this nomination.

I still fear the hearings won't reveal enough to appease my concerns about Harriet Miers. I still fear it will be a wasted pick. I still fear no additional nomination opportunities will present themselves to a Republican president with a Republican Senate in the forseeable future. But I have to at least give her (and Bush) the benefit of the doubt until that time.

Taking a deep breath and trying to follow my own advice...

Quote(s) of the Day

Peggy Noonan, as is typical of her, has a plethora of good thought in today's Opinion Journal column on Harriet Miers. A sample:
...the Miers pick was another administration misstep. The president misread the field, the players, their mood and attitude. He called the play, they looked up from the huddle and balked. And debated. And dissed. Momentum was lost. The quarterback looked foolish.

The president would have been politically better served by what Pat Buchanan called a bench-clearing brawl. A fractious and sparring base would have come together arm in arm to fight for something all believe in: the beginning of the end of command-and-control liberalism on the U.S. Supreme Court. Senate Democrats, forced to confront a serious and principled conservative of known stature, would have damaged themselves in the fight. If in the end President Bush lost, he'd lose while advancing a cause that is right and doing serious damage to the other side. Then he could come back to win with the next nominee. And if he won he'd have won, rousing his base and reminding them why they're Republicans.

He didn't do that. Why didn't he? Old standard answer: In time of war he didn't want to pick a fight with Congress that he didn't have to pick. Obvious reply: So in time of war he picks a fight with his base? Also: The Supreme Court isn't the kind of fight you "don't have to pick." History picks it for you. You fight.
I love that line about "the end of command-and-control liberalism on the U.S. Supreme Court."

Or how about this segment, which guesses what Miers will be like on the bench:
I know the answer. So do you. It's: Nobody knows. It's all a mystery. In considering who will fill one of the most consequential power positions in the country we are all reduced to, "I like this, I don't like that."

I like it that she's run a legal practice: that she real-world experience, a knowledge of the flow of money in America, of how it's made and spent. I don't like it that she's never written an interesting thing about a great issue. I like it that she taught Sunday school. I like it that she's not Ivy League. I don't like it that she's obscure. I like it that she works so hard. But I don't like it if she's a drone. I like it that she's a woman. It doesn't matter much that she's a woman. Etc.

I don't think it's important to show loyalty to the president by backing his decision. This choice will live beyond his presidency. It's important to get a justice who will add to the wisdom of the court, who will make it more likely that America will get a fair hearing before the bench.

Would she? I don't know, you don't know, the president who appointed her doesn't know. Presidents are always being surprised by what losers they put on the bench.

I wonder in fact if Harriet Miers knows what Harriet Miers will be like on the court. I am referring to more than the fact that if confirmed she will be presented with particular cases with particular facts that spring from a particular context and are governed, or not, by particular precedents. And I'm referring to more than the fact that people change, in spite of the president's odd insistence that she won't. People do, for good and ill. Sometimes they just become more so. But few are static.
Only reluctantly and only with time do lawyers now develop a philosophy. They get on the court, and reveal it to us day by day. And reveal it, one senses, to themselves.
My favorite line: "Presidents are always being surprised by what losers they put on the bench."

And her conclusion:
Supreme Court justices are more powerful than ever while who and what they are is more mysterious than ever. We have a two part problem. The first is that no one knows what they think until they're there. The other is that they're there forever.

I find myself lately not passionately supporting or opposing any particular nominee. I'd give a great deal to see Supreme Court justices term-limited. They should be picked not for life but for a specific term of specific length, and then be released back into the community. This would involve amending the Constitution. Why not? We'd amend it to ban flag-burning, even though a fool burning a flag can't possibly harm our country. But a Kelo decision and a court unrebuked for it can really tear the fabric of a nation.
Love that Peggy Noonan.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

We're thinking of the children...really!

The puppeteers from the national educational establishment are pulling the strings of their Senate friends to make sure they protect themselves. Oh sure, they say they're watching out for the children, but I invite you to read this and tell me with a straight face that the NEA has the kids' best interests at heart:
When Hurricane Katrina left 372,000 without schools, President Bush responded with a plea to Congress to provide educational aid to every displaced child, regardless of where they found refuge — in public, private, or religious schools. Louisiana's Democratic senator Mary Landrieu and her Republican counterpart David Vitter immediately followed suit with an across-the-board relief bill.

But soon, groups like the National Education Association and the National School Boards Association expressed outrage. They strongly objected to public funds being channeled to private schools in order to accommodate displaced children.

The handmaidens in Congress quickly followed suit, saying that now is not the time for a debate over vouchers. Senator Ted Kennedy proposed a bill that would provide aid only to public schools — and explicitly not private schools — that have taken in displaced children. Kennedy has been joined inexplicably by Wyoming's Republican senator Michael Enzi.

Now it appears Kennedy and Enzi are backing off somewhat, but they still only want to allow aid to go to private-school students after being channeled through public schools. If it is not defeated, this measure will add yet another unnecessary layer of regulation to a relief effort that has already been strangled by red tape.

Unlike Kennedy, the hurricane did not discriminate between children attending public and private schools. Owing to the abysmal condition of New Orleans public schools, roughly one-third of the schoolchildren in the most ravaged parts of Louisiana already were attending private schools. Many of their families, like so many others, lost everything in the flood.

The scores of private and religious schools around the nation that have opened their doors to displaced schoolchildren deserve prompt and equal compensation. Some Catholic schools in Houston are reportedly operating double shifts to accommodate children from Louisiana and Mississippi. But while public schools that are extending a helping hand can expect reimbursement, private and religious schools may not be so fortunate — not, at least, if Kennedy and his fellow sponsors have their way.
A third of those kids go to private school? The schools are so bad that the Louisiana house of representatives (in which Democrats hold 66 of the 105 seats) passed a voucher program this year, but it failed in the state senate (24D-15R).

It's shenanigans like this that cause me to have no respect for the teacher's unions and advocacy organizations — if they were really concerned about the kids, they'd let parents make their own choices about their child's education instead of advocating a "My-way-or-the-highway" perspective on public education. Of course, they understand all-too-well why they have to take a "me-first" attitude against private education — if vouchers were in place, the sprint out of public school (particularly in the inner cities of America) would leave them in the dust and without a job.

If they'd take that knowledge and find ways to better serve the taxpayers (other than putting a hand out for more money more money more money), maybe the cry for education equity would be reduced to a dull roar instead of a crescendoing scream.

By the way, before you post nasty comments that I'm disparaging the efforts of teachers, think again. I'm not talking about the teachers; I'm talking about the organizations that purport to represent them.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Kevin Mannix for...State Supreme Court?

Gully has an interesting idea for Kevin Mannix, and I have to say it makes some sense — Mannix pulls out of the governor's race, where he has less of a chance to win than a snowball's chances in, um, a place that melts snow; and he files for the Oregon Supreme Court against Robert Durham next year. He is a lawyer, after all.

There are two problems, however: Kevin has lost three statewide races, and doesn't have exactly the best reputation among independents, much less Democrats; and the last time a sitting judge lost his seat in Oregon was, um, well, has it happened? I asked the court's media contact, Jim Nass, and he said it hasn't happened in the more-than 20 years he's been there.

Combine those two things, and the only benefit is one less conservative in the governor's race. Still, I wouldn't mind seeing it happen.

Quote of the Day

From Jonah Goldberg on NRO-TC:
Stop your worrying everybody! I have it on good authority Harriet Miers stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night. So she's good to go.

The Senate should deny Miers

Yesterday featured a flurry of disappointed opinion regarding the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court — most of which, by the way, did not question Miers' abilities so much as the president's priorities.

Why would George Bush nominate someone we know nothing about, someone with no judicial experience, when several outstanding judicial nominees were available? If he had no faith that the Senate would confirm someone like a Michael Luttig or Janice Rogers Brown, why would he risk dispiriting conservatives (thereby risking the Republican congressional majorities in 2006) by nominating an unknown with suspect credentials? Why couldn't he see that nominating an old friend (again) would be perceived — not just by hard-left Democrats but by an increasing number of independents and Republicans — as a bow to cronyism at the expense of quality?

Relax, several other conservatives said — Bush has earned our trust with the track record of his other picks. Trust him with Miers.

Hugh Hewitt called it a "solid, B+ pick." (But why get a B+ when an A was available for the same effort?)

James Dobson went on the word of others — some he knew, some he didn't — to proclaim his support. (I appreciate a lot of what Dobson stands for, but when he's one of the few people endorsing Miers, is that really desirable?)

She's pro-life, some have said. She's an evangelical Christian, others claim. (All great, but are those qualifications for the highest court?)

Other justices went to the bench with no judicial experience, so it's no big deal. (I understand, but it's not as if there was a dearth of quality currently on the bench.)

Bush wanted someone on the court who has — by virtue of her legal arguments in favor of the president's wartime efforts — real-world knowledge of the separation of powers. (But can she separate her devotion to the president, the man for whom she's worked over the course of two decades, from her responsibilities to the Constitution?)

I know, I sound like Charlie Schumer now, but for some reason these concerns are more urgent with Harriet Miers because of her evident lack of other relevant experience. Maybe Bush is afraid that relying on the opinions of others will result in another Anthony Kennedy or David Souter, but that argument implies that Bush doesn't trust those he's placed in positions of influence around him. If he thinks himself a good judge of character, then he should trust those whose character has caused him to listen to their judgment. He should do exactly what the Constitution asks the Senate to do — look at the evidence, written and oral, and make a decision on whether Justice A is qualified to sit on the court and accordance with the president's priorities.

Harriet Miers may end up being an outstanding justice from a conservative perspective. But we have no idea, and the hearings will likely not tell us anything of value. The Ginsburg Principle has left senators with no other choice but to gamble on the word of the nominating president, so Democrats will likely oppose Republican nominees, and vice versa in the future.

The clincher came in this morning's Wall Street Journal, in an OpinionJournal.com piece written by Boston University law professor Randy Barnett. I make the assumption that Barnett is a liberal and thus had ulterior motives for the piece, so I take that into account as I read; still, he makes a strong argument against the C word.

First, he quotes Alexander Hamilton in No. 76 of the Federalist Papers:
To what purpose then require the co-operation of the Senate? I answer, that the necessity of their concurrence would have a powerful, though, in general, a silent operation. It would be an excellent check upon a spirit of favoritism in the President, and would tend greatly to prevent the appointment of unfit characters from State prejudice, from family connection, from personal attachment, or from a view to popularity. . . . He would be both ashamed and afraid to bring forward, for the most distinguished or lucrative stations, candidates who had no other merit than that of coming from the same State to which he particularly belonged, or of being in some way or other personally allied to him, or of possessing the necessary insignificance and pliancy to render them the obsequious instruments of his pleasure." (The italics are Barnett's.)
Barnett continues:
Cronyism is bad not only because it leads to less qualified judges, but also because we want a judiciary with independence from the executive branch. A longtime friend of the president who has served as his close personal and political adviser and confidante, no matter how fine a lawyer, can hardly be expected to be sufficiently independent--especially during the remaining term of her former boss.

By characterizing this appointment as cronyism, I mean to cast no aspersions on Ms. Miers. I imagine she is an intelligent and able lawyer. To hold down the spot of White House counsel she must be that and more. She must also be personally loyal to the president and an effective bureaucratic infighter, two attributes that are not on the top of the list of qualifications for the Supreme Court.

To be qualified, a Supreme Court justice must have more than credentials; she must have a well-considered "judicial philosophy," by which is meant an internalized view of the Constitution and the role of a justice that will guide her through the constitutional minefield that the Supreme Court must navigate. Nothing in Harriet Miers's professional background called upon her to develop considered views on the extent of congressional powers, the separation of powers, the role of judicial precedent, the importance of states in the federal system, or the need for judges to protect both the enumerated and unenumerated rights retained by the people. It is not enough simply to have private opinions on these complex matters; a prospective justice needs to have wrestled with them in all their complexity before attaining the sort of judgment that decision-making at the Supreme Court level requires, especially in the face of executive or congressional disagreement.
I think it's a stretch to say that nothing in her background has caused her to consider the constitutional complexities of federalism or other key issues. However, I think his argument is valid regarding Miers' ability to separate her devotion to Bush from her devotion to law. I think his concern — drawn from Federalist No. 76 — about a nomination based mainly on "personal attachment" is an argument that will gain a lot of traction both with Democrats and with squishy Republicans like Lincoln Chafee, Susan Collins and even Arlen Specter.

Some will ask: Don't you trust Bush? My answer is: yes. But. The Supreme Court has been listing left for 40 years; opportunities to right the ship come along too rarely to gamble on an unknown. All we know about Harriet Miers is that she's a friend and trusted advisor of the president.

That's not enough for what might be a once-in-a-generation opportunity. The Senate should send President Bush a message, and it should be this: Harriet Miers is a nice lady, but we're not willing to risk the judiciary on a nice lady. Enough with the Cronyism. Send us a clearly qualified candidate.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Harriet Miers for SCOTUS

Hugh Hewitt wrote this morning about the president's nomination:
The president is a poker player in a long game. He's decided to take a sure win with a good sized pot. I trust him. So should his supporters.
Uh, thanks for the sentiment, Hugh, but I'm not sure I agree. The Supreme Court of the United States is too important to treat it like a poker game, and Harriet Miers is nothing close to a "sure win." The bar is higher with Supreme Court nominees, both from the standpoint of the quality of the nominee and the willingness of the opposition to obstruct, and I'm not sure George W. Bush cleared that bar.

Miers is suspect off the bat, for the simple fact that she is short on judicial experience and long on friendship with the president. As Powerline's John Hinderaker wrote this morning about Bush:
"He had a number of great candidates to choose from, and instead of picking one of them -- Luttig, McConnell, Brown, or a number of others -- he nominated someone whose only obvious qualification is her relationship with him."
If you think the scream from the left was deafening when they requested written opinions by Miguel Estrada and John Roberts, get out your earplugs — PFAW, MoveOn, NARAL and the other typical Democratic puppeteers will be relentless, obnoxious and completely unreasonable in their demands for Miers' writing during her time as White House Counsel. With no other information to go on, the puppets — Biden, Feinstein, Kennedy, Schumer, etc. — will need very little from the hearings to find a way to oppose Miers.

I am not saying I think Miers is another David Souter, mostly because I have nothing to go on right now. But President Bush has made another appointment to an incredibly important position based on — get ready to hear this word on an endless basis — the Cronyism factor. She was involved in the 2000 campaign, and helped manage the Bush v. Gore court cases. Bush could have chosen a thoughtful jurist with a solid, conservative bent, a nominee whose intellect would make it difficult to hand obstruction excuses to the Democrats; instead, he chose someone who was directly involved in one of the most partisan issues of our day, the 2000 Florida debacle. Why not just give Patrick Leahy an engraved invitation to be a thorn in the administration's side?

Bush must know that the Democrats will pound on this nominee before letting Sandra Day O'Connor's position move right without a fight. Miers faces a long road toward earning approval, and she will already miss at least two months of caseload; if she is somehow defeated, that means the first half of the court's docket is wasted.

George W. Bush said in his 2000 campaign that Common Sense was all-too-uncommon in the country. This pick seems to lack that very trait.